Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflections from last week

I really enjoyed hearing everyone's presentations on Thursday. It was a very eye opening experience in my opinion. Most people, myself included were hesitant about the home visit portion of this class. Although I still have some hesitation about this, I think there was a lot to learn from the experience! Every family has a different story and you quickly learn that there are actually no "average" families. Even the ones that seem to be may turn out to surprise you. The way children act and learn in the classroom stems from their home life, and there are certainly no two alike! I think I will keep these presentations in mind as I go forward in my teaching career-remembering to be patient with students and their families, to be understanding of different circumstances, and that we are all working towards a common goal. My main hesitation in this practice was that I thought the parents would be offended and bothered. In actuality, I think most of the parents appreciated having their voices heard and seeing another side of their student's teachers!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be in Mrs. Lacey's class this semester. She was a true inspiration and a perfect example of how to welcome families and the community in to her classroom. I cannot think of anything that I would change about my time in her class this semester!! (And I would not say that about my past fields.. ;) )

On Thursday, Lindsay and I spent our last day helping the students make Indian headdresses and Thanksgiving bracelets using patterns while Mrs. Lacey did some benchmark testing. As they began to move in to writing, they began to read together a book they had been creating over the last few days about what they are thankful for. Each SmartBoard slide said "We are thankful for our homes, we are thankful for our clothes, we are thankful for our school, etc" The last slide said "we are thankful for Miss Jennie and Miss Lindsay". Of course they all were sooo excited to show us our "surprise" they had been keeping from us all day! Each child stood up and had something to say to us and it was so genuine! Mrs. Lacey presented us with one of her favorite children's book that the whole class had signed in the front-it was so special! Lindsay and I had brought cupcakes for the class.

This experience is one I will remember forever. I remember reading one of Alison's first blogs about welcoming visitors in to the classroom and what a difference it makes. It really does not take a lot of effort to do this, but it reaches so far. Not only do adult visitors appreciate when a teacher welcomes them in, but I feel confidant the students take note as well!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yesterday when I got to class, I learned that one of the children had left the class due to a move. My cooperating teacher began to explain some of his family situation to us and I was surprised to learn that his family was extremely poverty stricken and homeless. This particular child is bright, well dressed, and happy. The class was very sad to see him go, but it sounds like it was a move for the best-the family found a permanent home in the N. Charleston area. One of the things that particularly struck me is how the teachers in this classroom never felt the need to treat him differently or explain to my partner and me. I went back to my book this morning to reread what they have to say about homelessness. The opening quote for the section says "People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes." They go on to say a lot about suspending judgement on these families. As a teacher, you have numerous resources to help your students and their families. After seeing my cooperating teacher do just this, I have a different outlook on what it would be like have a student in this situation in my class.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All day with KB!

This week, Lindsay and I decided to go spend the entire (well almost! we got there about 8:30) with Mrs. Lacey's class. Our cooperating teacher used to be the Reading Recovery teacher and she prides herself in her ability to teach phonics and reading so... of course we wanted to see her in action. In the block that we are usually there, she teaches math and writing. We got there during differentiated instruction and settled now to watch Mrs. L teach 5-6 students at a time that were all on about the same level. As I have said before in this blog, it is so interesting to see the various learning levels in a classroom of 20 something kindergartners. DI time was a great example of how you really have to work hard to bring everyone up to speed. Some groups were having difficulty with simple sounds, while the most advanced group was able to play a speed game where Mrs. L flashed a card with a word and the student had to recall it. This group was able to go through the stack of words with little trouble and with great speed. I loved the "whisper phones" that she gave each student. They read the book into their phone and it gave Mrs. L an opportunity to go around to each student and work independently with them. Another observation I had was how much more attentive the students are at this hour! Wow! What a nice change. I asked Mrs. L about her choice to do DI first and then phonics, followed by calender time right before lunch. She explained to me that at first it was just a way she had to adjust the schedule to fit in grade level, but that it ended up being a great change. At first I thought it was a little odd to do calender in the middle of the day, but once she explained this to me it did make sense. After they go to lunch and recess, they finish up calender if necessary and then go immediately in to math which makes sense since the calender time is full of numbers, patterns, etc. Also, since calender time tends to be a bit repetitive, it may be beneficial to use the time when they are most attentive for phonics, reading, etc.
That afternoon I was able to witness a perfect example of family involvement in the classroom! Each student in KB has a "bug jar" that they work to fill up by good behavior. Mrs. L and her assistant will reward their students for various behaviors by putting a bug in their jar. When a student fills up their bug jar, they get to put a big bug in the class bug jar. Last week, they finally filled up the class jar! One student's mother came in to give the class a party for this accomplishment! It worked out perfect because they were not able to go outside for recess on this particular day because of the weather - ah! The mother led the class in a game of musical bugs (chairs) and they got candy as they got "out". Then she led them in an activity of making spiders out of crackers, pb, chinese noodles, and M&M's. It was really neat to see the class being rewarded and having fun. They were very respectful to the mother and followed her directions. I know that you won't always have parents that are willing or able to come spend an hour in the middle of the day with your class but how nice when you do!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

90 minute lesson complete!

And... it didn't go that great to be honest! When I got to class Thursday, Mrs. Lacey warned me that KB was having a crazy week and that they were being a little unruly so proceed with caution! I did but she sure was right! I know that this is a common possibility in any school-in any classroom so I think it was a good opportunity to learn from. It also made me realize just how important getting those procedures down pat is. On days like the day before their Book Character/Halloween parade, there is still teaching to be done and things to learn. If the students know their procedures forward and backwards, like the KB students do, it makes is a little bit easier to get them back on track.

My lesson was on sorting by two or more attributes. I started by sorting a group of shapes on the SmartBoard by color, shape, and size. (*side note: I got so tickled during this part because the SB was messing up on me, which is a pretty regular thing and all at once as if they had rehearsed it for days the students all shouted "its not you Miss Jennie! Its the SmartBoard!!!" It was cute.. this is what their teacher always says and I think they were looking for any excuse that day to shout) Instead of doing math rotations that day, they each did a sorting activity at their table that modeled the one we had done as a group. This worked okay but I was kind of disappointed that the shapes and criteria to sort by (they were precut by a parent volunteer) were the exact same as the ones we had done on the SB together. I think it would have been a better learning experience if they had different ones.

I also finished up a writing lesson that had been started earlier in the day during grade level instruction. After my lesson was over, I was reflecting particularly on the management skills that I still need to work on. Chapter 6 of Lemov is a great resource and I went back to read over parts of it after my lesson. I think the 100 percent technique is extremely important. As a guest in their classroom, the students (who are very very well behaved on average) see people other than their lead teacher as someone who will let them get away with less than 100%. I know it will be easier when it is my own classroom to use this technique but I will not forget what I have learned from teaching this class. To get 100% response from students, the teacher must enforce the rules 100% of the time!

This week, my partner and I are going early in the day to watch Mrs. Lacey teach phonics which she claims is her favorite subject to teach. I am looking forward to seeing other subjects and other times of the day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another Try

Thursday, my partner Lindsay taught her 90 minute lesson which included the math rotations. I was grateful that she and Mrs. Lacey put me in a small group rotation with a similar activity to the one I taught in my 60 minute lesson the previous week. I wanted to tweak the lesson and figure out exactly how to keep the students engaged. This week I had the students pull out 5 dominos (instead of having 10 - cards the previous week, but same idea) and stressed the "rules" of the game before I even handed out the dominos. At the kindergarten age, I think it is so important to remember to give very details rules and instructions before anything is handed out, before anyone moves to their next location, etc. It worked much better this week.

I really enjoyed the guest speaker in class on Thursday night. I couldn't help but relate what she said to the children in the class. There is no doubt that the most advanced children in the class have been working on reading, writing, numbers, letters, etc for a long time at home. She said something about the fact that a lot of parents think that once they start school, they will begin to learn but as we know this is not the case! The two most advanced children in the class talk often about the learning experiences they have at home and on the weekends. This is why I think the book bag activities are a great idea. It shows parents that continuing to teach at home does not have to be difficult, but it does take a conscious effort. I also think that sending home a newsletter each week that highlights what is being taught could be beneficial for families, particularly if it included suggested activities. There are so many great online resources out there that could be brought to parent's attention.

This week I am teaching my 90 minute lesson and I look forward to getting continued feedback from my cooperating teacher. She is so uplifting and positive in her critiques and I really respect what she has to say!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lesson #2

Yesterday was my second lesson and I taught a math lesson on more than, less than, and equal to. It certainly didn't go perfectly, but I learned a lot from it. I find a lot of the Lemov techniques to be helpful and plan on practicing them throughout the rest of my field placements to become more comfortable with them. The most important thing I learned from yesterday's lesson is how important setting behavioral expectations both prior to and during the lesson are. I think I will start to work them in to my lesson plans so that I have some sort of script in mind.

As we know, the Kindergarten teachers at SES work on their lesson plans as a grade level team. Although I have only seen the math and writing lessons, I am impressed with their ability to keep them different and enjoyable for the students. As I was reading about Lemov's "J-Factor", I thought about this. It is easy to incorporate joy in to the lessons you teach if they are not repetitive. There is always a great mix of group lessons, games, activities, craft projects, and one on one lessons for the differentiated math groups. Another part of the J-Factor is Us (and them). There is a great sense of belonging at SES. The KB classroom community is a close knit group where and they are often reminded that they are to work together and have common goals. The school as a whole is another community they belong to. When I walk with the class out to the busses in the afternoon, it is great to see the children and teachers greet one another by name, even across grade levels. I love seeing this sense of community!